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God is greater

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A heart at rest in His presence

“For God is greater than our hearts and He knows everything.”

1 John 3 v 20



16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 

17 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 

18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 

19 This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence 20 whenever our hearts condemn us.

                   For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

When Val saw the motto text she asked a very significant question:  “Is it meant to be a challenge or an encouragement?”

What do you think?

The question gets to the heart of what is in fact a difficult verse to translate.

It could read:

“Your conscience is troubling you?  Well – let’s face it – God is greater than your conscience and knows absolutely everything – so there’s no escape from His judgement is there?”


“Your conscience is troubling you?  Well  - God knows everything and He understands your heart and takes everything into account.”

It could be a challenge to people of conscience,

or an encouragement to those whose conscience convicts them and spoils the peace that He intends.

There is however one group of people for whom the motto text has no significance at all – those whose conscience never worries them at all. 

At it’s centre is that lovely phrase:

“How we set our hearts at rest in His presence”             (NIV)

So we need to take into account the context: 

John writes to his friends and brothers in the church at the close of the New Testament era. He warns them of the need for being alert to false teachings, and the need for a faith that proves itself against error – and in practical demonstration of real love.

He offers us in these words a way forward based upon two essential premises:

we have an inner witness that provokes us to better living

we have a great God who understands us and knows everything.

See how magnificently the chapter begins:

3 How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

The basis for everything that John writes here is the LOVE OF GOD

He has established that through what Christ has done we “are children of God”. That is not in doubt.

But John knows that Christians do not always avoid temptation, and he realises too that sometimes we become downcast because we are conscious of our individual failings.

It is something that Satan likes to encourage in us – a sense of failure; and it isn’t hard for him is it?

So many things destroy our peace – and we do not always “set our hearts at peace in His presence”.

If you use the AV you will know that it has a different punctuation:

20For if our heart condemn us,  God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.”                                                                                                         AV

The NIV links verse 20 to the preceding verse and changes that comma to a full stop:

“19 This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence 20 whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.”

And so this morning I offer you the Lord’s word for the coming year – a word that stresses the greatness of God, and His knowledge of all things, – a two-for-one text that offers both challenge and encouragement from the God who is greater than our hearts and knows all things.

In that sense this motto text builds upon the last – calling us to an increasing understanding of God who surprises us with unexpected bounty.

Like our last year text

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.    Eph 3  20.21

this one invites us to explorer the GREATER GOD and allow Him to lead us into the year ahead – as well as into the future plans He has for this fellowship.

So I would like to present three facets of this text:

À    God is greater than our hearts can know

À    God is greater than our hearts can need

À    God is greater that our hearts’ enemies

1.             God is greater than our heart can know

Even as born again believers our view of God is limited.   It is limited by our own nature, it is limited by our continuing weakness, it is limited by our repeated sin and unbelief.

In that very obvious sense then God is greater than we know.

Even in our best moments and closest encounters with the Lord and the Spirit we see “in part” and “through a glass dimly”.

You have a little view of God just now?

Perhaps this applies especially as you consider the way things are with us as a fellowship of His people?   Time is passing – we have considered several possible ways forward, but they have so far come to nothing.   We are tempted to give up – or to stop praying.

We do not know – but HE DOES!    He understands that our hearts are disposed to doubt and to sin – and that we feel the failure of the whole as if it were our own fault. 

He is greater than that!

Remind yourself of His        creating work


                                        Atoning work

                                        Resurrection …

He is greater!

Or perhaps you have a believer’s heart condition?  You have lost something of the peace and “hearts at rest in His presence”?  Your conscience condemns you?

You are aware of the sin which still dogs your footsteps and blights your life?

He is greater!

He is the one who loves you so much  (3 v 1)

His love and His forgiveness is greater than your heart can know –

3 How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

His forgiveness

His grace

His power

His care of you

So much greater than your heart can know!

2.             He is greater than your heart can need.

We are always asking Him for things aren’t we?

Always we need more …

And always He has enough – and more …

He is greater than our heart can need.

His resources of LOVE




Exceed by so much our puny needs.

In the darkness we ask for a lamp for our feet: He gives us one – but it is Christ the light of the world!

Again and again in his letter John writes of the EXTENSION OF OUR EXPERIENCE OF GOD the DEEPENING OF OUR KNOWLEDGE OF HIM

1 v 4                 joy to be made complete

1 v 9                         a life less dominated by sin

2 v 28               “continue in Him”

3 v 2                 “when He appears we shall be like Him”

4 v 12               The love of God is made complete in us

4 v 17 In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

A life without fear

You need           joy?

                        Life less dominated by sin?

                        To be closer to Him?

                        To be consistent in following Him

A life without fear?

He is greater than our heart can need!

3.             He is greater than our heart’s enemies

There are three times when John uses the word “greater” – in our text and in Chap 4 and Chap 5.

A clear context here is that of guilt and conscience.

Satan delights to make us feel small, inadequate, sinful failures.

If he cannot build on our actual misdeeds he will build on our sense of sin – he will use our conscience which can guide us away from sinning – into a morbid preoccupation with failure.

He is greater than sin’s accusations:

20 whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.

John understands the believer’s heart.   But he also understands his Lord.

It is not that God adapts His standard in any way – nor that we should sin knowing we will be forgiven – but that He is on our side in the battle against sin and Satan – and

He is greater – stronger than them all!

He is greater than our sternest critics


He is able to help us stand before the world and Satan

4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.   Chap 4 v 4



He is greater than the opinions of a doubting age


Chapter 5


9 We accept man’s testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. 10 Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. 11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

We are surrounded by alternative views – critical opinion, ridicule and sometimes complete indifference.

But this GREATER GOD has a superior testimony – an inner witness in the believer’s heart – a clear conviction not of sin in this instance – but of eternal life.

Hold up your heads! You are CHILDREN OF GOD - Children of a GREATER GOD:

o       God is greater than our heart can know

o       God is greater than your heart can need

o       God is greater than your heart’s enemies

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